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How former members of the gridiron became major landscape players

January 27, 2023 -  By
Justin Lingo (right) and Tyler Entz (left) have grown GreenShade Trees from 15 to 125 employees in five years. (Photo: LM Staff)

Justin Lingo (right) and Tyler Entz (left) have grown GreenShade Trees from 15 to 125 employees in five years. (Photo: LM Staff)

Justin Lingo has learned a thing or two about running a successful company since he started GreenShade Trees in 2007. He’s learned that he can’t be in his truck all day and be successful. He’s learned to hire the right people and put trust in the team. And perhaps most of all, he’s learned that being a tree farmer is a tough gig. 

“We thought it’d be a really good idea to start a tree farm,” Lingo says, recalling the beginning of GreenShade Trees. “We started growing trees and realized it’s really a lot of work. Being in the tree planting service and selling trees, it just wasn’t a good way to make a living.”

Over the last several years, the Oklahoma City, Okla.-based company expanded its staff and services. In 2021, the company reported $12.5 million in revenue and a whopping 156-percent increase in business from 2020 and grew 125 percent from 2021 to 2022. The company does 45 percent design/build and installation, 35 percent irrigation and provides some mowing and maintenance and turf and ornamental care.

Always on offense

Early on, Lingo was trying to do everything himself, which he knew was not a sustainable model.

“I was working at jobs during the day, running crews during the day and estimating at night,” Lingo says. “I went back to school and got my MBA from Southern Nazarene University. That triggered a new method, and we started scaling from there. We hired one project manager, then another, then another.”

One of those project managers is Tyler Entz, now project director. Entz and Lingo go back to when Entz was still in high school. Lingo was the offensive coordinator for the Yukon (Okla.) High School football team. Entz played wide receiver.

Now the two work together and maintain a sports mindset of always being on the offensive.

“Our focus is the big difference,” Entz says of the reason GreenShade has been successful. “We were focused on selling trees, getting trees out the door, and now we’re focused on bringing as much value as we can to commercial construction projects and landscapes in Oklahoma City and beyond. We make sure architects get what they want, owners get what they want and general contractors have a good partner to work with.”

Two recent projects stand out for GreenShade: Myriad Botanical Gardens and Lower Scissortail Park.

The former is a 15-acre green space in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City. The centerpiece is the Crystal Bridge Conservatory. Opened in 1988, the conservatory boasts an exotic plant collection, a reflecting pool and a waterfall. GreenShade won the contract to perform the first-ever remodel of the facility in its 30-plus years. The project was grueling — crews worked from 2 to 10 a.m. to avoid the excessive daytime heat. The confined space was another challenge: GreenShade brought in 400 yards of soil and all but one tree through a set of double doors.

Lower Scissortail Park is a 34-acre park that stretches southward away from the city, crosses Interstate 40 and includes soccer fields, walking trails and playgrounds. Prior to the company’s work on the land, areas of the park were in serious disrepair. Crews unearthed car parts, oil drums and other junk. The grand opening of the project earned GreenShade Trees a shout-out from the Oklahoma City mayor himself.

“The city wanted it done right because phase one didn’t go as well as they wanted it to, so they pushed for us to do it right,” Lingo says. “We didn’t want to have any mistakes. They trusted us, we had enough money, enough time and the right crews to do it. We worked as a team. At the grand opening, the mayor said these three contractors did a great job. … It was the plumbers, the electrical contractors and us.”

Growing team

Looking at the 2022 holiday card gave Lingo a reason to pause. There were about 125 people in the photo, all employees of GreenShade Trees. They had to use a drone to get everyone in the shot.

The 2017 Christmas card was a much different photo. There were only 15 people in that photo. A different time for a different company.

“That’s the fun and scary thing,” Lingo says. “We are supporting 130 families. They’re relying on our good management. They’re relying on us to make sure their family member has a job and has work to do. It’s stressful, but having a supportive family and a good team makes all the difference. The good team goes all the way from the delivery drivers to the project directors. It’s all of us.”

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